NFL from the Sidelines

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O-R Sports reporter Dale Lolley gets you the insider scoop on the NFL.

After hobnobbing around the NFL in the press boxes and sidelines, sports reporter Dale Lolley will let you know the insider scoop. Dale can also be heard on the Steelers radio network pre-game show prior to every game. Follow him on Twitter at dlolleyor.

Tuesday with Tomlin: Updates on the QB and other nuggets

January 10, 2017
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gets away from Miami Dolphins’ Andre Branch (50) and Cameron Wake (91) in the second half of an AFC wild-card NFL football game in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (Charles Trainor Jr/Miami Herald via AP)

Ben Roethlisberger is fine. He said so Tuesday on his weekly call to KDKA-FM, saying he’ll be ready to go Sunday when the Steelers head to Kansas City to face the Chiefs for a shot to advance to the AFC Championship.

But that didn’t stop Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin for taking the heat for calling a pass play with less than five minutes remaining in last weekend’s 30-12 playoff win over Miami.

Roethlisberger was hit from behind by Miami’s Cameron Wake on the play and aggravated an old injury in his right foot, causing him to wear a walking boot after the game as a precaution.

X-rays and an MRI revealed no damage and Pittsburgh’s quarterback will be on the field Sunday.

“We felt Ben’s presence in the game would aide us in terms of closing the game out via the run,” Tomlin said. “We had every intention of working to close the game out with DeAngelo (Williams), and his presence on the field would aide in that. Not only because of his presence, but a lot of our run game was check oriented based on what we saw from the defense. And he had a better part of the game to see those checks and to put us in the appropriate calls in an effort to do it. Now, I take responsibility for throwing it on third down. I got a little overaggressive there. And it goes beyond taking responsibility. I made the call. So don’t ask Todd (Haley) about it on Thursday. I made the call. And I take responsibility for that.”

Haley, the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, had called for a run play on third down on the series but was overruled by Tomlin, who wanted a short pass to receiver DeMarcus Ayers on a drag. The play had worked earlier in the game on third down and in the previous week against Cleveland.

But Ayers, a rookie, ran the route to shallow and was easily covered. Instead of throwing the ball away and punting, Roethlisberger held it, trying to throw downfield. When he eventually did, the pass was intercepted because he was being hit from behind by Wake.

@ As expected, defensive coordinator Keith Butler will work with the team’s outside linebackers as position coach Joey Porter is on leave while his legal situation is sorted out following an arrest on the South Side for an incident with an off-duty police officer.

But Tomlin didn’t rule out Porter coaching at some point this week, saying there was no timetable on the leave.

Tomlin also doesn’t feel the issue will be a distraction.

“I’m getting ready to play Kansas City,” Tomlin said. “So I have nothing other to add, other than what I said regarding that. I’m not going to allow it to be a distraction. It’s Tuesday. On Tuesday, I deal with you guys and I game plan.”

The Steelers are likely a little reluctant to quickly make a move with Porter despite the bad timing of this incident and because the officer in question, off-duty City of Pittsburgh officer, Paul Abel, has quite a checkered past. Google his name to find out more.

Porter is no choir boy to be sure. He’s had his issues in the past. And he shouldn’t be putting his hands on a bouncer, police officer or anyone. He has too much to lose.

It’s definitely a bad look for the Steelers.

@ The curious case of Ladarius Green continues.

Tomlin said Green had a setback late last week after practicing fully Wednesday and Thursday as he attempts to come back from a concussion that sidelined him for the final two regular season games.

That suggests to me that Green either had some workout-induced issues or could not pass the indepent neurologist tests that need to be cleared before he can play.

We’ll see where Green is this week starting Wednesday. He was with the team on Sunday, which is a good sign. They haven’t completely shut him down.

@ Tomlin said reserve running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has been placed in the concussion protocol after exhibiting symptoms on Monday.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Toussaint has lined up all season as the team’s “blocker” on kickoffs. And opposing teams have consistently kicked the ball to him instead of Sammie Coates or whoever else is back there.

Toussaint, for some unknown reason, continues to bring the ball out of his own end zone, despite struggling to average 20 yards per attempt.

Perhaps now, the Steelers will put someone else deep as a blocker. Or, and here’s a wild idea, maybe they won’t put anyone else deep and go with one kick returner.

@ Which is more significant?

Andy Reid-coached teams are 19-2 coming out of a bye week, which the Kansas City Chiefs are doing this week.

Or, Kansas City is 1-9 in its past 10 playoff games - including 0-4 - since its last postseason win at Arrowhead Stadium.

That last playoff win came against the Steelers in a Wild Card playoff game in the 1993 season. In overtime. With Joe Montanta at quarterback, Marcus Allen at running back and Marty Schottenheimer as the head coach.

A young reporter named Dale Lolley also was covering his first playoff game in that one.

The Steelers, by the way, are 19-12 in the postseason since that loss, appearing in four Super Bowls and winning two.

@ In another stat that might only interest me, Tomlin is 7-5 in the playoffs with two Super Bowl appearances and one win in his first 10 seasons heading into Sunday’s game.

Bill Cowher’s record in the postseason in his first 10 seasons was 7-7 with one Super Bowl appearance and a 1-3 record in AFC Championship games.

Yes, Tomin has benefitted from having Roethlisberger at quarterback. Roethlisberger owns a 12-6 postseason record.

But, those who want to point to him as being the sole difference seemingly overlook the fact that Cowher had some historically good defenses in 1994, 1995 and 2004 and didn’t win the Super Bowl.

Tomlin also benefitted from having many of those great defensive players around in 2008 and in 2010. But it also was an aging defense that made a lot of money and needed to be replaced.

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